When Adriana Carrig, our NJ Mompreneur of the Week, started making beaded bracelets with thoughtful, encouraging words for her sorority sisters while in college, she never thought her jewelry making would become a full-time gig. But while working a day job in marketing, she would go home and bead more, finding the process more fulfilling than her full-time job. Orders for her side hustle were flooding in, and Adriana decided this was her moment to take the leap into entrepreneurship. So she quit her job and launched Little Words Project—colorful, beaded bracelets with inspiring and empowering words promoting kindness, self-love, and positivity, encouraging wearers to be kind to themselves and pay it forward. Over ten years, this NJ Mompreneur’s business has grown from a single employee to almost 50, with retail stores nationwide and retail partners, too. We caught up with this Chatham mama of one (and another on the way) to find out the inspiration behind her words, the meaning behind registering a new word bracelet, and the go-to breakfast spot in Summit that feels like you stepped back in time.
Adriana Carrig, the founder and CEO of Little Words Project and our NJ Mompreneur of the Week.
Tell us a little bit about your family. It’s safe to say my family is my entire world. I have an incredible husband, Bill, and the sweetest, almost 2-year-old son, Ford. I am also pregnant with another baby on the way. And I can’t leave out our crazy dog Dylan, who is about to be shocked when another baby enters our house.
Has NJ always been your home state? I was born in Los Angeles but grew up in Livingston and currently live in Chatham, a quaint and peaceful town. It’s the perfect place to raise our growing family, and we can get to the city or the beach if needed. Our office is also conveniently located in Mountainside, so we’re in the perfect spot for a quick commute.
When you were young, what were you most passionate about, and what did you think you’d be doing growing up? My entire childhood, I was always starting tiny businesses, even when I was really young, playing imaginary games like “cashier” at the pretend grocery store in my living room. My mom would play along like she was shopping at my store–it was my favorite thing to do. I always loved the idea of running my own business, but I also always dreamed of being a mom when I grew up. I saw how my mom was so incredible in raising my brother and me, and it inspired me to want to grow up and be a working mom, too.
Adriana, with her husband, Bill, and son, Ford, enjoying some much-needed downtime in Disneyworld.
Please share a bit about the bullying you endured as a child and how you were able to turn this into something positive to help others. I can’t name a time in my life when I didn’t deal with some form of bullying from other girls. I can recall these moments of cruelty from kindergarten to college when a few students at my college used an anonymous online forum to spread rumors about me. Through all of the bullying, I realized the impact of people’s words and how they can shape how one feels about oneself, but I did my best not to allow them to. For me, starting Little Words Project was a way to reclaim the power of words. I felt like I could help other women who may need a little extra encouragement during difficult times, and instead of allowing negative words to tear me down, I used them as fuel to start something that could make a positive difference.
What did you do career-wise before launching your business? What was your “aha” moment? I was working in marketing in NYC and realized it didn’t fulfill me the way I knew I wanted, and I started making bracelets after hours. I had my “aha” moment when I realized that I couldn’t keep up with orders anymore while also having that full-time job—I decided to take the leap. I always believed in why I started this business and that it would work out if it were meant to, so it wasn’t too hard to jump in fully.
How has your business changed since you first launched it? What’s next for LWP? LWP has grown so much since I first started it. We went from having one employee for many years to 50 employees between our HQ and retail stores. Our goal from the beginning has always been the same, get these bracelets on as many wrists as possible and be known as the bracelet for kindness and self-love. I see some new stores in our future, maybe more big retail partners—Target was huge for us—and continuing to grow in any way we can while remaining true to who we are and keeping our core values at the forefront of everything we do
Certain words speak to us at different times in our lives, and Little Words bracelets serve as a thoughtful reminder to help the wearer take ownership of their chosen words.
With each bracelet purchase, you encourage customers to register their word. What’s the meaning behind that? The purpose of a Little Word is to embody that mantra and then share it with someone who needs it. Each bracelet has a unique code, and the wearer can register their code online and share what the word on the bracelet means to them. Once the word has served them and they pass the bracelet on, the new wearer can do the same, and eventually, there’s a string of stories, and you can “track” and follow the journey of the bracelet from person to person and see how it’s touched lives in different ways. These words of positivity and encouragement spread kindness, one bracelet at a time. And there are times when the stories affect me personally. When I was trying to conceive my first son, my husband and I went the route of IVF after two years of struggle, and the IVF stories hit me differently. One customer wrote about how she wore her “hope” bracelet through her treatments and told us how much it helped her stay hopeful through what can often be a seemingly hopeless process. Then, she came back to register again, this time including a photo of her baby in her arms. She’d worn her bracelet through birth and all. Moments like those remind me why we do what we do—to have a positive impact on people’s lives.
In what ways is your family supportive? My family has been supportive of me from the very start. Initially, my parents let me turn their basement into an “office” and helped me make all the bracelets and ship orders. I always say my dad was the original shipping department of LWP. My husband, who I credit with coming up with the name for the business, has helped with everything from shipping, beading, finances, and, most importantly, not caring when bracelet orders were busting out of our multiple tiny apartments over the years. Now Bill has officially joined as our President and COO, and he helps run the business while my parents and the rest of my family continue to cheer me every step of the way.
Do you have a favorite word that you like to wear? If so, what is it, and why does it resonate with you? Believe is my favorite word to wear, and I have probably worn it every single day since the beginning of the business. I’ve believed in myself every single step of the way since the beginning of Little Words, but also since my childhood when I could have easily been defeated by the negative words from the “mean girls” I encountered. I believed in myself enough to know their words couldn’t break me down. I still believe in myself right now and that Little Words Project will go the distance. I just believe, believe, believe—it hasn’t failed me yet!
What are some of your favorite NJ businesses? I love The Summit Diner in Summit for the best breakfast and lunch options—it’s got a vintage feel because it’s an old railroad car that’s been a diner for almost 100 years. Murray and Finn in Summit for kids’ clothes and goodies, and Deena’s in Point Pleasant and Sisters in Denville for cute gifts. I also love Scoops for ice cream in Chatham.
What’s your best piece of advice for a mompreneur just starting? Don’t be too hard on yourself. Being a mom is hard, and running a business simultaneously is doubly hard. Every day will test you, and every moment will make you question how you can do it all in the world. What I’ve learned firsthand through this journey is that you will do it all because you can—and because moms are superhuman.
For more information on Adriana Carriage and Little Words Project, please see their website, Facebook, and Instagram pages.